Australia’s Tim Cahill seems to have that rare unquantifiable talent for producing in the biggest moments. Some of the world’s most naturally gifted players have suffered through an inability to deliver when the spotlight is at its harshest. Cahill would not profess to have been born with the same naturally-gifted talent as some of his contemporaries, yet somehow he keeps delivering when it matters most.
The Sydney-born forward boasts five FIFA World Cup™ goals to his name, including an eleventh-hour match-winning double against Japan at Germany 2006 as the Socceroos earned their first ever win. And his spectacular volleyed goal against the Netherlands at Brazil 2014 seemed straight out of a video game, such was the aesthetic perfection of the strike.
Last Saturday, after 18 years abroad, the 36-year-old Cahill finally lined up for his first senior domestic game on home soil. Now in its 12th season, the A-League is still in relative infancy. And in Australia’s tough sporting marketplace, Cahill’s arrival at Melbourne City was a handy boost for the competition.
The next challenge for Cahill was to match the hype. There should never have been any doubt. Less than 30 minutes into his debut – a high-octane derby against Melbourne Victory – Cahill sprinkled his magic dust upon the A-League. A loose ball amid a midfield scrap and there seemed no danger. But Cahill, as is so often the case, was a step ahead. No shot on goal even seemed an option, but suddenly a crashing volley from 40 yards was flying over the goalkeeper. It was, of course, Tim Cahill. And, in trademark fashion, Cahill was sprinting off to do some shadow boxing with the corner flag.
Cahill’s impact for the A-League has been striking. Melbourne City coach John van’t Schip – a former Netherlands international and product of Ajax Amsterdam – likened the aura of Cahill’s arrival to that of Johan Cruyff’s return to his spiritual home.
“It reminded me of when Cruyff came back to Ajax after so many years away from the Dutch league, when he scored a fantastic goal and the energy that he (Cruyff) bought, I feel the same now with Tim,” said Van’t Schip. “He is bringing such aura and energy into the team and that goal made it even more special.”
A-League on the up
Cahill’s magic continued a sparkling opening to the A-League, which continues to grow across different measures with each passing season. A bumper 43,000 crowd was on hand for the Melbourne derby, while a week earlier an Australian club record 61,000 crowd witnessed the Sydney derby. Remarkably it was also the biggest attendance at a regular season stand-alone match for any football code at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
As for Cahill, his star-power shows little sign of dimming with Australia’s national team the beneficiary. Only last month Cahill scored an invaluable winner for the Socceroos against Asia’s new rising force, United Arab Emirates, just moments after entering the fray in a World Cup qualifier. Brazil 2014 seemed certain to be Cahill’s last World Cup appearance, but now a cameo at Russia 2018 seems likely. In the meantime, an appearance at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 looms.
But for the coming months it is the local competition that will be the focus. The corner flags of the A-League are on notice!